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New Alzheimer's discoveries could reduce financial exploitation

As Minnesotans know, older adults can be especially vulnerable to financial exploitation, and sometimes, if coercion or undue influence is suspected to have affected a person's end-of-life wishes, disputes can arise that lead to will contests and other kinds of litigation.

In many cases, Alzheimer's disease may play a part in how an elder is financially exploited, and this exploitation can often lead to problems with probate. That is why readers in the Twin Cities who have concerns about vulnerable adults will be interested to hear of recent discoveries about Alzheimer's that could help in treating the debilitating disease.

Independent studies by researchers at Harvard and Columbia found that the disease starts in a small part of the brain and then spreads through an abnormal tau protein that is usually seen in brains affected by Alzheimer's. Scientists and doctors have long known that dying, tau-filled cells often indicate the presence of Alzheimer's, but how the diseased spreads has up to now been unknown. According to the findings, the abnormal tau protein clumps together into a tangle and moves like a virus through the brain.

The recent discovery showed that the disease starts in one area of the brain and moves along a connected path to other parts that control reason and memory. Now scientists will be able to search for a way to stop the spread of the tau protein in Alzheimer's patients, very likely reducing the effects of the disease.

Many Minnesotans are faced with the challenges of caring for and protecting a vulnerable adult who suffers from Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. These new findings may well make that job easier, as well as prevent some of the unfortunate situations that result in probate disputes and other estate planning conflicts.

Source:, "Alzheimer's discovery could curb spread of disease, researchers say," Niamh Scallan, Feb. 3, 2012

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